Mobile Local Search: The Guessing Game

These days there are lots of folks circling mobile local search. And the question everyone seems to want to know an answer to has to do with the ad model: “What’s working or will work?”

While you have to think about business models from the outset, my advice is focus on the user experience and make that the best and most intuitive it can be. For if you build it successfully — make it useful and easy to use — they (and later the money) will come.

Nobody has really got it figured out yet and nobody really knows what will drive the most consumer adoption. Conceptually I can tell you it will be accuracy, versatility and ease of use. SMS is popular among the youth demographic, already in widespread use and starting to deliver advertisers (e.g., Miva PPText). Here’s SiliconBeat’s recent post about SMS marketing firm Mozes getting funded.

But directory assistance is an established use case too and arguably the mainstream doorway into mobile local search. Companies such as Jingle Networks’ 1800-free-411 and Infreeda’s 1800-411-Metro are growing quickly but are uneven in their content delivery. Infreeda has some interesting and different ad opportunities for marketers, which include branding and direct response. The company is about to broaden its service but consumers largely wouldn’t know the difference between Jingle and Infreeda at this moment (both companies disagree of course).

And then there’s the potential growth of mobile Internet usage via smartphones and faster mobile networks. But what about “point and search,” which is seemingly much easier to use (just point at an object, building, sign, etc.) than the mobile Internet and offers some intriguing ad opportunities to boot.

As I say in my Search Engine Watch blog post today:

There are several use cases (or, if you prefer, “modalities”) now developing in the mobile search world: SMS, free ad supported directory assistance, automated voice-driven mobile search, the wireless web and the perhaps more provocative “point and search.” Because of the multiplicity user scenarios, some or all of these models may co-exist for awhile. (It’s likely that we’ll also see blending of models and technologies.)

I believe, however, that a couple of models/user experiences will emerge as superior, drive more adoption and come to dominate the space. Those models will attract ad dollars accordingly. It’s too early to pick winners yet.


One Response to “Mobile Local Search: The Guessing Game”

  1. Alex Says:

    Both Google and Yahoo! will be speaking on October 2nd, 2006 for MobileMonday Toronto to discuss mobile search.

    We look forward to their discussion and our chapter attendees will hopefully gain new knowledge and insight on the subject of mobile search.

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